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Should I get a Charlie Card?

Should I get a Charlie Card?

Old Feb 26, 17, 2:21 pm
  #1  
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Should I get a Charlie Card?

I'm a Brit flying into Boston Logan next Thursday. I'm staying in Boston for three nights. I'll be spending each day in Boston (I won't go outside the T-Station network).

What's the best spending option for travel around the city? Should I get a Charlie Card, only being there three days? Can non-US residents get one?
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Old Feb 26, 17, 4:58 pm
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First thing. You will probably do well to take the Silver
Line from the airport to South Station as your first trip.
It is free, so you can defer your decision until later.
From South Station there is free transfer to the Red
Line and thence to the other lines.

I'd recommend getting a card, as I believe it's still free; it
gives you a 50c per trip discount on the subway and
some lesser amount on the bus. You can load whatever
amount you want on the card, so that's convenient.
The T site gives contradictory information on how to
get one - one source says that you can get one at any
subway station between 7 and 7; another lists stations
that are supposed to have them; South Station is on it
but the Airport blue line station is conspicuously absent.

I would recommend NOT getting a day pass, no bargain
at $12 something.

Also keep in mind that Boston is a very walkable city.
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Old Feb 26, 17, 5:47 pm
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They most certainly sell Charlie Cards at all hours at the Blue Line Airport station.
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Old Feb 26, 17, 6:04 pm
  #4  
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You should absolutely get one. Not only are they easier to use, and cheaper, but they don't expire. I've been using the same one for a little over ten years now.
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Old Feb 27, 17, 9:29 am
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They don't make the info that easy to find...kind of like the cards themselves, actually.

Check item number 3 on the FAQs below - it lists the stations where (in theory, at least) CharlieCards will be available. Note that this specifically does NOT list the Airport Station (Blue Line) as one of them. The cards are still given out free. I'd also caution that our beloved MBTA sometimes doesn't always quite function as indicated - would never shock me to find a traveler having a hard time finding the Customer Service agent at the station (they're "roving") and/or finding the agent is out of CharlieCards.

http://www.mbta.com/fares_and_passes/charlie/?id=5592

South Station is one of the locations listed for distribution. This would be the Red/Silver line subway station as opposed to the commuter rail station above ground.

If you're staying at a location close to one of the other stations with card distribution, you might be able to just get one there when arriving. As others have noted, you won't need to pay any fare when boarding the Silver Line at the airport terminals, and can transfer to other subway lines via the Red Line free of charge at South Station.

As stated, you pay 50 cents less per subway fare using the CharlieCard. For those hardy travelers willing to brave the bus system, the Card also offers transfers between bus and subway, which can be a huge savings if this is needed (realize this is unlikely for the OP, but might help others looking for info).

Hope this info helps! The CharlieSystem can be a bit confusing even for locals at times. The good news is a new system is in the design process.
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Old Mar 9, 17, 3:39 pm
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Thank you for all your posts, ladies and gents, this did indeed help! I got a Charliecard at the Downtown Crossing Charliecard store and used it every day. I was in Boston for four days and only spent $18.55 on the card. I still have it, with $1.45 on, but as it doesn't expire for a decade, it may get used again.

Also handy that I could use it on the Silver Line buses running down Washington Street near the Hampton Inn Crosstown, my hotel - there were no train routes nearby, but thankfully the Silver Line was just a couple of blocks away.

When I went into the Charliecard store I was immediately told to go outside and queue outside the door... they evidently don't like queues inside it!
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Old Mar 10, 17, 7:39 pm
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Originally Posted by CMK10 View Post
You should absolutely get one. Not only are they easier to use, and cheaper, but they don't expire. I've been using the same one for a little over ten years now.
By the way, they MOST DEFINITELY expire. ("New" cards have the expiration printed on the bottom of the card.)

I tried to use my CharlieCard last year at a station and kept getting an error. MBTA staff took one look at my card and deemed that it was a "old card" as it didn't have an expiration printed on it. Ended up having to go to Downtown Crossing - took 2 minutes for someone to transfer my old balance onto a fancy new card.

Originally Posted by goldencondor View Post
When I went into the Charliecard store I was immediately told to go outside and queue outside the door... they evidently don't like queues inside it!
Oh yes, they were quite stern with me as well, even though I got called inside after 30 seconds of being sent back outside.
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Old Mar 11, 17, 8:06 am
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2 minutes? Mine took a good half hour, just about 2 years ago. Crazy number system they had going on there.
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Old Mar 11, 17, 10:59 am
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Originally Posted by Out of my Element View Post
2 minutes? Mine took a good half hour, just about 2 years ago. Crazy number system they had going on there.
Yup - in and out in about 2 minutes. Fast and efficient - two words usually never associated with the MBTA.
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Old Mar 13, 17, 10:03 am
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Originally Posted by JY1024 View Post
By the way, they MOST DEFINITELY expire. ("New" cards have the expiration printed on the bottom of the card.)

I tried to use my CharlieCard last year at a station and kept getting an error. MBTA staff took one look at my card and deemed that it was a "old card" as it didn't have an expiration printed on it. Ended up having to go to Downtown Crossing - took 2 minutes for someone to transfer my old balance onto a fancy new card.



Oh yes, they were quite stern with me as well, even though I got called inside after 30 seconds of being sent back outside.
Charliecard or Charlie ticket?

I got mine a good 6 or 7 years ago, it has an expiration date of 6/22. I know about a year and a half ago some of the stations they were just standing there handing them out.
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Old Mar 15, 17, 7:19 am
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Originally Posted by Cloudship View Post
Charliecard or Charlie ticket?

I got mine a good 6 or 7 years ago, it has an expiration date of 6/22. I know about a year and a half ago some of the stations they were just standing there handing them out.
CharlieCard. (Got mine when they just started to issue them.)

I still have a roll of the old tokens...think I bought those for $.75 or $.85 a piece.
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Old Mar 15, 17, 10:10 am
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Original early CharlieCards were programmed to expire in 5 years. Apparently at the time, the belief was the cards wouldn't physically last much longer, so the idea was to force people to transfer their balances to new cards prior to the point when the cards failed.

As the 5 year deadline approached, they realized the cards would last longer, so if you did an "upgrade" at a fare vending machine, you got another 5 years added to the expiration. There was a limited window where this reprogramming was available, so by no any original cards w/o this patch won't work. The CharlieCard store may or may not be able to recover a balance off the card.

Newer cards are printed with an expiration date on the front. I believe these started with dates in 2021 and later.

That said, the T is working on AFC (Automated Fare Collection) 2.0 which will be a radical departure from the current CharlieSystem. It's quite likely the existing cards will not work with the new system, which will be fully account-based (i.e., no balance info lives on the card). No official word on when it will debut, but the T seems to be moving the project along at a good clip.
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